Friday, March 19, 2010

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia . . .

Well, not really - it actually rained the last day I was there!  But spring weather is forecasted for the East Coast this weekend so Philadelphia would make an ideal "virtual" destination!

Independance Hall

Philadelphia is a great family vacation city.  Because it is not very very large and spread out , it is easy to walk from one destination to the next.  It is filled with museums, historic sites, classic architecture and culture.

Although most of the major hotel chains are represented in Philadelphia, my of choice would be The Four Seasons, a five-star establishment with a Forbes Travel Guide award winning restaurant, spa services, an indoor pool, fitness facilities and spacious rooms and suites.  The Four Seasons has over 360 rooms and 96 suites, some with views of Logan Square and the Swann Memorial Fountain, or if you prefer you can choose a room with courtyard view of the garden and waterfall below.
The Courtyard of The Four Seasons (photo courtesy of The Four Seasons Philadelphia)

Swann Memorial Fountain

History is a large part of Philadelphia's charm.  It is almost obligatory for a first time visitor to Philadelphia to visit Independence National Historic Park.  The park is made up of a few sites including Independence Hall, Congress Hall and the Liberty Bell Center.  If you do plan to visit Independence Hall, be sure to visit the website to obtain reservations; we were unaware of this when we visited and could not obtain tickets.  Congress Hall, next door to Independence Hall, is the original site where the Senate and House of Representatives conducted business when Philadelphia was the capital of the United States from 1890 to 1900.  A few steps away from Congress Hall and Independence Hall is the Liberty Bell Center, which opened in 2003.  If you are lucky enough to visit on the afternoon of any July 4th, you will see descendants of signers of the Declaration of Independence tap the bell thirteen times in honor of the patriots from the original 13 states.

Interior of Congress Hall

Now that we have had our history lesson for the morning, let's grab a cheese steak for lunch and head back toward The Four Seasons as our next destination is near Logan Square.  Any fan of "National Treasure" will surely recognize The Franklin Institute from the movie, but in the film it was portrayed to be a historical museum; it is actually an interactive science museum.  There is a striking rotunda with a 20-foot high memorial to Benjamin Franklin directly inside the front entrance and can be viewed without paying the museum entrance fee.

The Benjamin Franklin Memorial at the Franklin Institute

After leaving the Franklin Institute, you may want to run back into the hotel to change your shoes - running will be involved in our next stop!  A short walk up Benjamin Franklin Parkway will bring us to our next destination, The Philadelphia Museum of Art.  The 72 steps leading from the street level to the museum entrance were made famous in the 1976 movie, "Rocky", and if you are there, you must run up all 72! 

My sons running up the museum steps!

When you reach the top step, raise your arms over your head and do a victory dance!
Don't feel silly - everyone does it!
You are probably a little hot and tired after running up all those stairs!  After descending the steps, stop by the Rocky Water Ice cart on the sidewalk in front of the museum, near the Rocky statue.  Water Ice is Philadelphia's version of Italian ice; choose from over 30 flavors of this frozen treat to cool you down before we grab a cab to head back to the Historic District for dinner.

Still haven't had enough history?  For dinner, make a reservation at The City Tavern.  Established in 1733, it was the unofficial meeting place for the First Continental Congress in 1774, and was been the dining establishment of choice for George Washington and other notable historic figures (the rolls served before the meal were the personal favorite of Thomas Jefferson).  It is a lovely restaurant with great atmosphere (candles on every table, a harpist in the hallway) and delicious food based on the culinary menus of the 18th century.  I recommend a bowl of Hearty Turkey Soup as an appetizer, followed by the Chesapeake style crab cakes with remoulade sauce - very tasty!  It's been a long day; let's go back to The Four Seasons for an evening swim in the pool and some rest!

The entrance to The City Tavern

One last stop before leaving this lovely city - brunch.  The London Grill  on Fairmount Avenue has an extensive menu with the added bonus of having a "make your own Bloody Mary" bar, where your drink can be made with vodkas infused with interesting items such as smoked meat to enhance its flavor, along with adding as many fixings as you would like. 
Photo courtesy of

Our exciting weekend getaway to historic Philadelphia has come to an end.  If you would like to visit this interesting, stop by Visit Philly and make some vacation plans for the upcoming summer months!

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